This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. I am slowly blogging through Steele's Answers, posting each Q & A in the order in which they appear (whether I personally agree with the answer or not). But, these posts come from several other sources, as well. I often post particularly eloquent passages from Dr. Steele's other writings. Occasionally I post "guest blogs" from other holiness writers.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Role of the Pastor (Ephesians 4:13)

QUESTION: Explain Eph. 4:13, "And he gave * * * some to be pastors * * * till we all attain unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

ANSWER:  Notice (1) the end and aim of the pastor is perfection of manhood of every believer, as evinced in the ideal of which Jesus Christ is the standard. (2) By the oneness of faith and knowledge; not two unities but one, faith merging into certain knowledge (epignosis). (3) "Attain" is in the aorist tense denoting a definite point reached, not at death, but in this life as the following verses plainly show. (4) Christ is at once the source of this perfection and the standard. We find in him a sufficiency for becoming as perfect in our measure as Christ is in his. "In him are ye made full" (Col. 2:10, R. V.).

Steele's Answers p. 247.

Friday, April 24, 2015

New Converts in Unspiritual Churches

It is a great mistake to bring a young convert into an unspiritual and worldly church. It is like laying a newborn babe on the breast of a dead mother for nutriment and growth. Hence we deprecate the promotion of conversions to increase the membership of a dead church. It is like enlarging a graveyard. A healthful revival always begins, not outside of the church, but within it. Zion must herself travail before living children are born. Some unwise pastors, in their eagerness to swell the number of church members, try to awaken sinners over the heads of a slumbering church, whom they dislike to awaken lest they should be displeased. Men awakened suddenly are usually not kindly disposed toward those who arouse them.

The result of many modern revivals is to multiply the number of those who are strangers to the direct witness of the Spirit to their adoption into the family of God by the new birth. Another result is that those who do receive this divine witness and retain Him intermittently find few to counsel and encourage them when ecstatic emotion subsides and they are called to walk by naked faith alone without feeling.

Our advice to all who have occasional gleams of sunshine through the rifted clouds, with intervals of doubt and incertitude, is, to ascertain the cause of this intermittency, and to remove it as soon as possible. For the cause is not, as some teach, in the sovereign will, but in ourselves. To this declaration the only exception is some physical condition into which we have been brought by divine Providence, such as a prostrated nervous system, or a concussion of the brain, depressing the mind and obstructing conscious access to Christ. The Christian, by thorough self examination, should assure himself that no sinful act has veiled his inward vision of God. Then he may patiently and believingly wait for the veil to be lifted again, and continue to be lifted so long as he has a firm grip on the promises of God. For where sin is absent the Spirit's witness is intermittent, because faith is wavering. Hence the remedy is a greater familiarity with the Word and a constant personal appropriation of the full heritage of the believer, especially the great gift of the Comforter. When the Third Person of the adorable Trinity is fully received, or, rather, when He fully possesses us, there is no more interruption of His testimony to our sonship to God. For He is now the abiding witness. Ecstatic joy may come and go as the tides ebb and flow, but peace and assurance abide forever, as Miss Havergal so truthfully sings:

"Like a river glorious
Is God's perfect peace."

We advise the believer who does not dwell on the bank of this beautiful river to gather together the promises of Christ respecting the abiding of the Paraclete found in His last address before His death, recorded in the 14th, 15th and 16th chapters of St. John, and the numerous references to the same glorious theme in St. Paul's epistles, and especially in the First Epistle of St. John, where the mutual abiding it taught, "God in us, and We in God." In such a spiritual life, filled and interpenetrated by God, there can be no hiatus, no vacuum, and no place for doubt.

The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 16.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It Is Better Farther On

The doctrine of the immediate contact of God's Spirit with my spirit, without the medium of symbol or sacrament or absolving priest, does not rest upon one, two or three cardinal proof texts, but upon a wide variety of scriptural proofs, such as the communion of the Holy Spirit, the revelation of Christ within the soul, the knowledge of God, the strengthened form of the Greek epignosis, clear, certain, thorough and perfect knowledge of Christ, a favorite term with both Paul and Peter, together with plerophoria, full assurance, excluding all doubt. Count up the many times in John's first Epistle in which he says "we know," and add the stronger words, "ye all know," instead of "ye know all things" (I John ii. 20), found in the Revised Version margin and the text of Westcott and Hort, and our reader will see the broad basis on which this doctrine stands.

The direct witness of the Spirit is intermittent in most young Christians. Before the fulness of the Spirit is received there are only occasional gleams of light through the rifted clouds, followed by sunless intervals when doubts distract and harass the soul. The cry of such Christians when seeking the abiding witness, the indwelling Comforter, is voiced by Charles Wesley, who alone among all the versifiers of the eighteenth century gave due prominence to the Holy Spirit; "the author," says James Montgomery, "of a great number of the best hymns in the English or any other language." The superiority of the permanent to the transient witness of the Spirit is thus finely expressed:

"O that the Comforter would Come!
Nor visit as a transient guest,
But fix in me His constant home,
And take possession of my breast,
And make my soul His loved abode,
The temple of indwelling God."

This alternation of experience from sunshine to shadow affords occasion for the temptation to cast away our confidence in Christ and to abandon His service. Many yield to this suggestion of Satan and go back to the world instead of climbing to altitudes above the clouds. Some are told by stationary and retrograde Christians that they will never be so happy as they were when they first entered the kingdom of God. This dismal outlook upon the future intensifies the temptation with which they are wrestling. Hence It is not surprising that not a few young converts turn away from Jesus and walk no more with Him. They should have been told that in the normal Christian experience "it is better farther on." It is to be regretted that there are so few normal Christians who are at hand to give the discouraged convert this word of good cheer. Many professors of faith in Christ are living on so low a level amid the miasmas and fogs that they never have even a glimpse of the sunny spiritual uplands,

"Where dwells the Lord our Righteousness,
And keeps His own in perfect peace
And everlasting rest."

The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 16.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Earnest of the Spirit

"Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." — 2 Corinthians 1:22 KJV

From its very beginning the normal regenerate life is a continuous progression in spirituality, arithmetical if not geometrical, receiving with its widening capacities richer gifts of the wisdom and holiness of God.

"New births of grace new raptures bring;
Triumphant the new song we sing,
The great Renewer bless.
Darkness and dread we leave behind,
New light, new glory still we find,
New realms divine possess."

With respect to the obligation which the earnest of the Spirit lays on its recipient, it has been well said that it is a lien upon the future service of the receiver. If the service be unperformed, the earnest will be withdrawn; whereas if the service be lovingly rendered with the whole might of the heart, the measure of the gift will be filled up even to the sanctification of the whole body, soul and spirit. The Church in its infancy as to the realization of spiritual blessing, as mankind is in babyhood in its appreciation of electricity to human utilities. To what surpassing altitudes will the individual believer and the Church as a whole be lifted when the gift of the Spirit is fully realized and appropriated.

"Spirit, who makest all things new,
Thou leadest onward; we pursue
The heavenly march sublime.
'Neath Thy renewing fires we glow,
And still from strength to strength we go,
From height to height we climb."

The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 16.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Witness of the Spirit

This is the doctrine of assurance which Wesley did more to elucidate and to relieve of obscuring misapprehensions than any preceding theologian. He thus describes the direct witness of the Spirit as "an inward impression on the souls of believers, whereby the Spirit of God directly testifies to their spirit that they are children of God."

The indirect witness is an inference from the discerned presence of the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, etc., and it follows the direct witness in the order of time, "because," says Wesley, "in the nature of the thing, the testimony must precede the fruit which springs from it." The voice of the Spirit within the believer is to all who know God the most real of all realities. It is sometimes called a seal which secures, authenticates and appropriates.

The Holy Spirit is God's seal. "Ye were sealed with (not by) that Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. i. 13). Another metaphorical designation of the witness of the Spirit is "the earnest of the Spirit." The earnest is derived from mercantile usage traceable through the Romans and Greeks to the Phoenicians, the founders of commerce. It assures the fulfillment of a promise as a part of the purchase money paid in advance to bind the bargain, or as an installment of a servant's wages paid at the time of hiring, obliging the servant to render the service and the master to pay the rest of the wages after the work has been done. It places both parties in a position to enforce the contract. The buyer, if he does not take the goods, forfeits the money advanced, and the servant who fails to render the service must refund the earnest which he has taken. The master who repents of his bargain must lose the wage advanced, and the merchant who withholds the goods because the market price has risen, or for any other reason, must repay the money advanced. The phrase "earnest of the Spirit" occurs only twice in the New Testament. Grammatically "the Spirit" is in apposition with "earnest," meaning that the pledge consists in the Holy Spirit bestowed upon the believer and dwelling in his heart. "And gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (II Cor. 1. 22). There is no hint here of the time when the full wage will be paid, although in Eph. i. 14 it is "until the redemption of the purchased possession." Those who take a narrow view of present Christian privilege and put the fruition of the promises after death interpret the earnest only of the fulness of joy in heaven. But I believe that it is a pledge and a foretaste not only of heaven hereafter, but of a present heaven attainable by faith – even the fulness of the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 16.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Devil, Demons, and Angels

QUESTION: (1) Is there more than one devil? (2) What is his origin? (3) Is there more than one archangel? (4) What does the name Gabriel signify? (5) What is a demon? (6) His origin? (7) Are the kingdoms of this world delivered to the devil as he claims (Luke 4:6)?

ANSWER: (1) The Greek diablos (devil), - Hebrew (Satan) denotes the one prince of demons. But in Paul's epistles to Timothy and Titus it is plural and translated in the R. V., "slanderers." Demons are fallen angels subject to the devil. In sixty-two places in the N. T. the R. V. simply transfers this word instead of incorrectly translating it "devils," as in the old version. This is a great improvement. (2) An apostatized being of a high angelic order. (3) It seems to be plural in Daniel 10:13, "Lo, Michael, one of the chief princes," etc. Seven is their number in Rev. 8:2 "And I saw the seven angels that stand before God." (4) God's hero, or the man  of  God. (6) Created by God. (7) No. The devil lied. He has usurped about all the political control of all nations; it was not given by God. This usurpation of so-called popular governments in modern times is easy when good men are too busy or too lazy to vote. When a city allows the saloon, the brothel, and the gambling hell to rule, it has as good a government as it deserves. Let every one when tempted remember that every promise of good which the devil makes is a false promise. It is our business to become sharp-sighted enough to detect his falsehoods and not to put our feet  into his trap for the sake of nibbling his poisoned bait.

Steele's Answers pp. 245-247.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Getting the Mail on Sunday

QUESTION: Is it wrong for a Christian to open his P. O. box and get his Witness or other religious paper on Sunday?

ANSWER: I think it is wrong to require the postmaster to be in his office on the Lord's Day. If you can get your paper without this requirement, I see no evil in it.

Steele's Answers p. 245.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking Children to Entertainments

QUESTION: Is it wrong to take children to see strenuous athletic contests, a street trapeze, or a man dive from a bridge or a logging contest for prizes?

ANSWER: It is wrong to give children low ideals. "Just as the twig is bent the tree is inclined."

Steele's Answers p. 245.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Christ Our Sanctification

QUESTION: In what sense is Christ our sanctification as in I Cor. 1:30?

ANSWER: Not that his personal holiness is reckoned as ours, but that we are indebted to him for procuring the Paraclete (John 14:16), by whom we are sanctified (II Thess. 2:13; II Pet. 1:13).

Steele's Answers p. 245.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

King Asa

QUESTION: How could Asa have been perfect all his days in view of the bad conduct of which he was guilty in the latter part of his reign? See II. Chron. 15:17; 16:2, 10, 12.

ANSWER: No other answer can be given than that his apparent eclipse of faith was due to an eclipse  of  intellect in the last years. In other words, that he was irresponsible because he was insane. That is my charitable explanation of the sudden change in his conduct. In that case God could pronounce his heart perfect while his head was awry. The commentators with great unanimity skip this verse.

Steele's Answers pp. 244, 245.